By Mario Casayuran
Proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution and adopt a federal form of government is as good as dead in the 24-member Senate.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Senate is not adopting any joint resolution that would pave the way for the formation of a Constituent Assembly (Con Ass) made up of members of the current Senate and the 300-member House of Representatives to amend the 31-year-old Charter.
“Walang ‘Cha Cha’ (Charter change). Maski sabihin mo pang Con-Com (Constitutional Commission), ganoon pa rin, kailangan pa rin ng participation ng Senate,’’ he added. (There will be no cha-cha. Even if you call it Con Com, it is the same. The participation of the Senate is still needed.)
Lacson aired his views on the Cha cha issue even before the Senate constitutional amendments committee chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan has yet to issue a committee report on the constitutional amendments proposal expected this month.
The Consultative Commission created by President Duterte on the need to amend the Charter and to adopt a federal from the current unitary form of government has submitted its report to President Duterte and Congress leaders.
This was before the controversial ouster of then House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The coup d’etat took place just before President Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in joint congressional session last July 23.
Lacson said the Arroyo takeover of the House leadership appeared to be the unifying factor among senators to go against Cha Cha.
“Call it wariness, call it distrust, call anything you want to call it but that was the sentiment (that formed during an all-senators caucus a day after the SONA),’’ he said.
Lacson recalled the conversation between Senate President Vicente Sotto III and President Duterte before and after the SONA.
He said Sotto later relayed to them what he told the President that, after the controversial Arroyo-Alvarez feud and what the President told him.
Sotto, according to Lacson, had told the President that he might not be able to convince his colleagues in the Upper House to amend the Charter through Con Ass or Con Com with members of the latter elected by the people. Sotto cited already 10 senators who are against a Cha Cha.
Because of this, the position of the Senators solidified against Cha Cha, he said.
Aside from the five-member Liberal Party (LP) members, the front against Cha Cha in the Senate increases with those who have an ax to grind against Arroyo.
These include Lacson and Senator Antonio Trillanes.
Lacson, an anti-Arroyo during the Arroyo administration, was a fugitive in 2010 but returned to the Philippines in March, 2011 during the Aquino administration.
Trillanes, on the other hand, was jailed during the Arroyo administration for attempting a mutiny against then President Arroyo.
Lacson also said Senator Grace Poe is a political enemy of Mrs. Arroyo for having snatched presidential victory from her father, Fernando Poe Jr.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito also has an axe to grind against Mrs. Arroyo for having ordered the jailing of his father, former President Joseph Estrada, on plunder complaint.
“And then there were others. And then when we held that caucus , parang ganyan naging sentiment, stay put tayo, let’s just fold our arms, do nothing because we may be trapped if we even adopt a joint session with the House of Representatives (to debate on a resolution seeking to amend the Constitution.),’’ he added.